The trend of splitting games into two continues. ARK: Survival Evolved is carving off its competitive, Battle Royale-inspired Survival of the Fittest mode into a standalone free-to-play spin-off game of the same name. ARK: Survival of the Fittest [official site] challenges 72 players (or 200 on unofficial servers) to be the last person or team standing in an ever-shrinking arena. It's out now on Early Access.
Survival of the Fittest adds dedicated esports ranking, matchmaking and tournament features designed to entice new players to the prehistoric table. At launch, it packs over 30 tamable and rideable creatures, however "many more" are expected come full release - which is currently scheduled for around the end of next year.
Here's Studio Wildcard's overview:
"ARK: SotF pits up to 72 combatants (official servers) and 200 combatants (unofficial servers) in an action-packed struggle for survival against the harsh environment, creatures, 'Evolution Events,' and other players in the ultimate Multiplayer Online Survival Arena (MOSA). Survivors are eventually pushed into an epic final showdown where only one 'Tribe' will make it out alive.
"Survivors can form one- to six-person Tribes with the options to choose Unofficial and Official (Ranked) servers, and a variety of game-lengths and sizes in which to play. Players will start in the base forest environment introduced in the original ARK: SE, and new environments and creatures will be introduced as the game evolves."
The Evolution Events mentioned there are features that alter play and spice things up a little. I'm yet to try Survival in the Fittest in its current form, however the mod's interpretation of this is things such as Acid Rain, which steadily drains HP or your armour durability, and Mega-Heat, which rapidly dehydrates players.
The free-to-play, ARK: Survival of the Fittest is out now on Steam, and you can also grab ARK: Survival Evolved for the discounted price of £13.79 until Friday 10am PST/6pm GMT, if you like. Here's the Survival of the Fittest launch trailer:
Ark isn't the first game to split its modes into separate games. Last month, Daybreak announced that they were similarly splitting H1Z1 in half, with its survival mode becoming one game and its Battle Royale-inspired mode becoming the other. The popularity and desire to focus on the latter is at least partially due to these being better for those looking to stream games than their longer, more shapeless crafting-focused parents. Here's what co-creative director Jesse told us last year:
I would say the Survival of the Fittest mode is targeted at the people who want to have a new experience in Ark, especially for streaming. A lot of people do still stream H1Z1 and a lot of it is just the Battle Royale mode, whereas it’s hard for people to sit there and engage with Ark for hours and hours and hours on end. It can feel grindy, and we want to keep Ark on that first page of Twitch if we can. I think the way to do that is to implement some more of this bite-sized action for people to engage in and really play with their fans.
A lot of streamers like to have their subs come and play with them, because stuff is so permanent on the servers, and if you want people to come play with you it’s a big ordeal. You need server passwords. Whereas if you’ve got a game mode that lasts one day of streaming, they can get all their people to pop-in and play with them and everybody can have a lot of fun.
We did a let's play of Ark Survival of the Fittest when it was first released last year - at least until the servers crashed. You can watch that below for a glimpse at how it works: